Students passing the Central Board of Secondary Examination (CBSE) will no longer have an edge over others, fear experts. Complaining that in the last couple of months, CBSE has done away with all the new academic reforms that had set it apart from other school boards and has brought back rote-learning and exam-oriented studying, schools in Mumbai said they will continue with the reforms till Class 8.
The board recently scrapped the open text based assessment (OTBA) for classes 9 and 11. This is close on heels of discontinuing the international curriculum, erasing the continuous comprehensive evaluation that focused on all-round assessments, and making Class 10 board exams compulsory again.
Many of the academicians in Mumbai fear that these changes have turned back the clock on the progress made by students. “These are regressive steps, undoing all the innovative assessments and evaluations brought in over the last decade,” said Avnita Bir, principal, RN Podar School, Santacruz. “These assessments were on par with foreign universities and higher education institutes.”
The OTBA, for instance, which was scrapped earlier this month for classes 9 and 11, was aimed at developing thinking and analytical skills of students. It involved pouring over case-studies and answering open-ended questions, instead of merely copying down mugged up answers. “We were so impressed with OTBAs that we had introduced them for our lower classes as well and we don’t want to change that,” said Bir.
Refusing to do away with the reforms completely, many of the schools have decided to continue with them for primary and middle school. “CBSE policies are politically driven but we cannot keep changing the assessment pattern. It will affect our students,” said Deepshikha Srivastava, principal, Rajhans Vidyalaya, Andheri.
Adding that the school had painstakingly developed our present curriculum, Srivastava added, “We will take the good practices from all the various assessments and stick to it for classes 1 to 8.”
Schools said that they were not consulted before any of these changes were done, leaving them anxious about what the future holds. “It was unfair for the board to just scrap it without even giving us any reason. We are now worried whether they will do away with the new subjects,” added Bir.
Some of the principals said that while the assessments were good, they were not implemented properly by the board. “They were hastily introduced, without proper planning. None of the actual stakeholders were involved in the discussions while implementing them,” said Ganesh Parmeswaran, Bal Bharti Public School, Navi Mumbai.
Parmeswaran said that the board needs to closely monitor the implementation of the reforms. “The assessment of speaking and listening skills too, is not being done properly. The results are fudged by many schools.”
He said that some of these reforms were not suited to rural areas. “CBSE has schools in urban and rural areas. They have to think about reforms which can be adopted by all the schools,” he said.
What are the reforms that were brought in and later scrapped:
OTBA: It was introduced two years ago on March 2014 for Class 9 in Hindi, English, Mathematics, Science and Social Science and in a few subjects in Class 11 such as Economics, Biology and Geography.
CBSE-I: Owing to unavailability of quality reading material of global standards and other technical difficulties, CBSE’s international curriculum started in 2010-11 as a pilot, will be discontinued from the coming academic year, 2017-18.
Optional board exams: The Class 10 board exams will be compulsory for students once again from 2017-18. In 2011, the board exams were made optional. Instead, students could appear for school-based exams. This was an attempt to reduce the fear of exams.
CCE: Schools will no longer follow the Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) policy that emphasized on all-round assessments introduced in 2009. The board has revised the assessment pattern for schools, bringing back the focus on end of the year exams. The board exams will carry 80 marks and school-based tests only 20 marks.
Problem solving assessments: In 2015, the CBSE cancelled its problem solving assessment (PSA) component abruptly in the middle of the academic year for classes 9 and 11. The exams were aimed at testing students higher order thinking and problem solving skills.